Sunday, July 20, 2008

Shameless Plug: National University's Online MA in English (Review)

In light of a recent personal accomplishment, completing my master's degree in English from National University in San Diego (I finished my thesis mid-May but my degree conferral date is July 20, which just happens to be today), I thought I'd put in a shameless plug for the school and its fully online, fully accredited programs, especially the MA in English, which is really the only one I can speak for.

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The greatest strength of NU’s intensive online MA program is that it provides a unique opportunity for students with restricted access to campus-based programs to gain a quality education. I especially like the accelerated, one-class per month format, which allows students to focus on one class at a time. This is especially helpful to those with priorities in addition to gaining a graduate-level education. As an involved husband and at-home dad, this process has allowed me to fulfill my family responsibilities while at the same time permitting me to study literary theory and criticism and great works of literature in a structured and challenging online community. It has further encouraged associations with willing and concerned professors and other graduate students in ways that have supported my pursuits and interests as a student of literature and writing. I’m convinced that this environment permits the dedicated and conscientious student to refine their own scholarship and to develop the skills necessary to collaborate with others in refining theirs in a technologically mediated environment, a virtual location certain to become the classroom of the future.

As exemplified at NU, distance learning programs don't have to sacrifice the intellectual rigor and educational merit associated with their onsite counterparts. Their particular strength resides in the fact they can and must require that students develop an increased measure of self-direction and self-motivation as learners, the proper autodidactic ends of any educational system and philosophy. While at one time I considered online education sub-par, my experience with NU has shown me otherwise. While I would changed a few things about the program platform, such as the availability of past courses and past course materials once students have moved on (once the class is over, students can only access the cyberclassroom for, at the most, two weeks) and individual course requirements for peer review of final papers (each class concludes with a 10-12 page paper, something that could be made less intimidating with less procrastination and, to the extent possible, more peer support), I wouldn't trade my experience and the confidence I gained through my accomplishment for anything.

If anyone's interested in a quick but no less intense master's degree, check out NU's list of program offerings here.